Our team of admissions counselors put together this helpful blog post full of tips for making your online learning experience a successful one. Since you’re not attending a class session at a designated time, it does take more self-direction and personal accountability to keep yourself engaged in the materials and completing your assignments when they are due. You’ll need to learn how to reach out to your professors, classmates, and student support services, who are ready to help but who need you to let them know when you need help!
Maintain effective time management skills
You will need to find the time in your busy days to complete your course work. This means setting aside time throughout the week that you can use to devote to your classes; it’s best to keep a consistent schedule and to have a planner or calendar you can use to plot out your assignments. It’s important to not procrastinate, to keep a close eye on your syllabus, and to plan ahead.
Know course expectations and plan ahead
Read and understand the course syllabus and other components that will be covered in the class, and pay particular attention to the due dates! We recommend buying an academic planner or using an electronic agenda like Google Calendar to map out when your assignments are due, especially those bigger projects that will take more time to complete. This will help you identify when “crunch times” might be or when you may need to allocate some extra study time in a given week.
Pace yourself and don’t procrastinate
When life gets busy, it can be easy to put off your academic work until the last minute. It is better to put yourself on a predictable study schedule to make sure that you have enough spare time set aside. Try your best to not put things off! This means making sure you spread the work throughout the week in manageable chunks.
Stay in contact with your academic adviser
Advisers can help you make sure that you are on the right track toward your degree completion and that you know important dates. They can address any questions or concerns you might have about your studies or about Penn State World Campus in general. Your adviser is going to be one of your biggest advocates and support resources as you pursue your degree, so make sure you get to know him or her!
Identify times within a given week that you can set aside to complete my course work
If you don’t have a lot of spare time during the week, trying to fit in an additional responsibility may be a challenge. Also, timing is something to consider. You need to ask yourself, “Is this a good time for me to add something else to my plate?” For example, if you are moving, starting a new job, or about to have a child, it may not be an ideal time to also begin taking courses. Before you commit to becoming a student, you need to really take an honest look at yourself and decide what you think you can handle. Remember that each 3-credit course takes around 10 to 12 hours per week of course work. Trying to do all of your class work in one day – like your day off from work – will be very difficult!
Find a productive study environment
It’s also very important to have a consistent study environment that is free from distraction, is quiet, is comfortable, and has a good Internet connection. This could be a corner in your living room, your home office, your local library, or a coffee shop – any place that can serve as your “go-to” place as you complete your assigned readings, problem sets, essays, and tests.
Ask for help if you need it
There are a lot of support services at Penn State World Campus, but it is up to you to start the conversation. We won’t know you need help unless you ask! This is particularly important if you are experiencing difficulty in a course. Courses move along quickly, so it’s really important to contact your instructor as soon as a problem arises so you don’t get behind in the course.
Setting aside a specific study time and location can help you meet your course obligations. But if you need help, don’t feel ashamed to ask! Make sure you communicate with your professor before the last minute. Professors generally aim to be flexible, and they understand that many of you are adult students and your plates are very full! However, they are not going to accommodate a lack of planning.